Posts Tagged ‘inspiration’

What makes Monday so difficult for so many?

MinionMondayAll around Facebook are images with text lamenting about how Monday has come around again. It appears to be painful for people to get out of bed, get motivated, and get the week started. Why is that?

I’m curious. I’ve never dreaded Mondays out of hand. The first day of the week is like a fresh start – a reboot of the To Do List – a time for the cheerleader to get out the pom-poms and encourage a successful week.

It’s the day the gyms have the most attendance, so I know I’m not alone in being motivated on a Monday.

Personally, my favorite day has always been Tuesday. It’s generally my most productive day. I’m back in the groove of running my business, and it’s the least busy day for phone calls, meetings, or other things that mysteriously suck time away from getting work done. When in school, it was the day of the week with the most assigned homework and I had to get the most done. That might have been when I got in the habit of being productive on Tuesday.

But it’s the only day that doesn’t seem to have any special meaning. Wednesday is hump day; Thursday is pay day; Friday is the most respected day; Saturday is the weekend and freedom; Sunday is quiet, spiritual, religious, and for family time (and the day when poor Monday starts getting trash talked).

Tuesday is just there.

Friday gets cheers and whistles and party hats and noisemakers. Bars offer specials and happy hours, banks cash a lot of checks, and restaurants and movie theaters fill right up. Fridays have all the fun.

I hope this isn’t how you look at the week:

Dreaded Monday

Would Mondays would get more respect if they started a 4-day workweek instead of 5?

Do you dread or look forward to Mondays?

Lisa J. JacksonLisa J. Jackson is an independent writer and editor who enjoys working with businesses of all sizes. Mondays inspire her. She loves writing about NH people, places, and activities. You can connect with her on FacebookTwitterGoogle+, and LinkedIn.

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I’m back, energized and inspired, from my writing retreat last week. It was a wonderful four days—shorter than I had planned, but it was still a great experience!

I did morning pages for the first time in years (and I’ve kept doing them—some days—since I came home.)

I wrote blog posts—for the first time in the history of my life coaching blog, I have blog posts ready to post weeks in advance of when they will be published.  I have always wanted to be that organized person who posts way in advance and, at least for a little while, I am!

I wrote about my main character in my novel. I’m not sure how much of what I’ve written will be part of the novel itself, but it’s all back-story that I needed to explore. It was really fun to dive into this work and to get to know my protagonist.

I wrote a couple of drafts of a new short story that I hope to eventually submit for publication and sent that off to my critique group for their input.

I created coaching worksheets and planned and outlined my next few life coaching talks. Thinking about my presentations so far in advance allowed me to do see where I need to do more research and how I can incorporate more interactive tools into the presentation (always more fun!)

I relaxed—a lot. I went swimming in the lap pool and I snow-shoed in the frigid mountain air. I sat around the dinner table with my companions and had conversations that felt honest, true, and important.

I was surprised by how many ideas I got for my writing while I was swimming and snow-shoeing. Away from the to-do lists of my daily life, story ideas and blog post ideas kept popping into my head. I plan to try to recreate that opportunity for creativity by consciously clearing my mind before I head out for a run, a walk, or a swim.

By the end of my time away, I realized that the writing retreat was a wonderful gift and I saw that I could still get my writing done once I was home. Most of the writing I did while I was away happened in short bursts. There was only one afternoon where I wrote for 4 hours straight—the rest of the time, I wrote for an hour or two, went and did something else, came back to that piece or moved on to another piece. While I’m not going to have a lot of four-hour blocks of time to write in my near future, I will definitely have 1-2 hours a couple times a week!

Spending this time away concentrating on my writing gives me a feeling that I have a jump on my writing goals for 2014. I’m excited for what the rest of the year will bring.

How can you create a writing retreat for yourself—even if it’s just for a few hours?

Diane MacKinnon, MD, Master Certified Life CoachDiane MacKinnon, MD: is a writer, blogger, mother, life coach, and family physician. I can no longer believe the myth “I need more time to write” because I just had four full days and I still jumped from one thing to another, something I do all the time in my normal, daily life. That’s good news!

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Writer's Digest cover, October 2013

Writer’s Digest cover, October 2013

In a recent (Oct 2013) Writer’s Digest Magazine interview with writer David Sedaris, WD editor Jessica Strawser advises that “You can build a career as an author by playing to your strengths, following your true passion, going at your own pace and never shying away from your unique voice.”

I believe it’s true for any writing career and it’s what I strive for each day. It also ties back to my recent post on how your writer’s platform should be unique, like you. Here’s how I relate to the quote.

Playing to strengths:

  • New Hampshire — I have  strong family history in this state, and enjoy learning more about NH every day. This strength is great for my travel and history essays.
  • Varied background — My early working years were spent as a contractor for numerous NH companies ranging in size from small (under 20 employees) to large (multiple thousands of employees) in several industries such as manufacturing, beauty, engineering, retail, legal, e-learning, publishing, and more. I’ve worked as a customer service rep, administrative assistant, technical manual writer, financial analyst, learning designer, coordinator (of many different groups, people, and activities), and more. I loved the variety of moving from company to company and position to position. Always learning something new!
  • High tech experience — I spent a few years with Digital Equipment Corporation and learned a lot about computer hardware functionality and how all the parts work together — which constantly comes in handy as technology grows and changes into even smaller pieces and parts. I also worked with many engineers and know how to translate ‘geek’ to ‘English.’
  • Writing — I’ve been getting feedback on my writing since fifth grade, through college, graduate school, corporate jobs, critique groups, publishers, and more.

Following a true passion:

  • Writing — I didn’t start my writing career as early as I wanted, but it was always in my soul and my path brought me to where I am today. I believe it started in 1st grade when I learned how to write my name, then with a diary where I could capture my thoughts.
  • Sharing my experience and knowledge with others — through writing.

Going at my own pace:

  • My first handful of years as a freelancer/independent writer were lean years, but I had saved for that so I didn’t want to worry about paying the mortgage or rent, or eating.
  • Low stress and free time are important; as is making my own schedule.
  • The freedom to pursue what interests me instead of what pays the most is always important.
  • After 6 years, I’m earning more than any corporate job.

Staying with my unique voice:

  • I’m more black and white than shades of grey; I’m literal. And I like that.
  • I enjoy writing from a newbie point of view; I feel I offer the most when experiencing something and then sharing that experience — whether it’s learning a particular topic, way of doing things, or some functionality — I want to come at it with unbiased eyes and write what I’ve learned and now know, in a straightforward manner (which is probably why I enjoy tech and process guide writing so much!)
  • In travel or destination writing, my uniqueness is shared from my perspective of a solo traveler, female traveler, and as someone who finds ways to enjoy adventures while dealing with motion sickness issues. I also prefer off-the-beaten-path details more than what-everyone-else-is-doing details.

How do you relate to the quote?

Lisa J. JacksonLisa J. Jackson is an independent writer and editor who enjoys working with businesses of all sizes. She loves writing about NH people, places, and activities. You can connect with her on FacebookTwitterGoogle+, and LinkedIn.

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For the first time in many years, I’m going on a writing retreat that is more than a day and a half—I’ll be gone for 5 days! I’m very excited and really nervous.

  • What if I don’t get anything done?
  • What if nothing I write is good enough?
  • What if I waste this time when I could be home with my family?

I could go on and on but I won’t. Because…

  • What if I get a ton of writing done?
  • What if all of my writing is good enough?
  • What if I use this time wisely and deliberately while I’m away from my family?

I think those are better questions. I think I’ll answer those questions.

If I get a ton of writing done, it will set me up for a productive writing year. If all of my writing is good enough, then I know I will be practicing my craft and improving my writing skills. If I use this time wisely and deliberately, I will go home feeling that I’ve accomplished something and knowing that I can find other times during the year to write.

Okay, now I’m really getting excited.

This writing retreat is designed by me; And I’m going to design a writing retreat that totally works for me.

I’m lucky enough to have a place to go for almost a week with a good friend (who is also a writer) and I will write until my behind gets numb, then I will either go swimming (in the lap pool!!) or go running until I’m exhausted and sweaty. Then I’ll shower and repeat. At this point in my life, that is my idea of a great writing retreat.

Other than my journal and my computer with my novel drafts on it, I will also bring a few books—of course!

I also have the latest copy of Writer’s Digest to read.

Morning pages are on the agenda, as well as taking a good look at my current work-in-progress before I dive in and just start writing.

Whatever comes of this week, I know I am making a big commitment to myself as a writer by taking this week away from my daily life and devoting it to that thing I keep saying is very important to me.

Wish me happy writing!

How can you commit to your writing this year? Is there half an hour or half a day that you can dedicate to writing this week or next?

Diane MacKinnon, MD, Master Certified Life CoachDiane MacKinnon: is a writer, blogger, mother, stepmother, family physician, and life coach. I wanted to start this blog post like a game of “Going on a Picnic.” Remember that one? “I’m going on a writing retreat and I’m bringing an apple, a bunch of books, a candle, a doodle pad, an e-book, a fountain pen, a gum eraser, a hoodie, an iPad, a journal, a kettle for tea, a love of learning, a mountain of M&M’s, a notebook, an open mind, a planner, a quagmire for my protagonist to get out of, a realistic sense of what I can accomplish in 5 days, a sense of humor, a talent for playing with words, unlimited time, variables to play with, wit, x-ray vision to see into my draft, yogurt, and zeal for my writing!”

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When I looked at my WIGs for 2013, initially I was disappointed. I like to check off boxes and complete my To Do lists, so I was frustrated to see I only accomplished 5 of my WIGs for 2013—out of 37!

But when I reviewed my list, I realized almost all of them were truly WIGs—so completely and Wildly Improbable! I also realized that if I’d been offered some of the opportunities I set as goals, I would have refused them—so how could they be goals?

I wrote more of a Bucket List than a goal list last year so I’m changing things up for 2014. I’m still making a list (I don’t think I could stop myself) but I’m going to change my rules for myself. To make my list for 2014, each WIG (which now stands for “Wildly Improbable Goal” AND “Wildly Inspiring Goal”) has to be:

  1. Something I really want to accomplish in the year 2014;
  2. Something under my control (for example, I can’t control whether I get hired as a newspaper columnist, I can control how many times I query or submit to a newspaper);
  3. Something that feels good to think about striving for as well as attaining.

Looking at #3, I then ask myself the question: “How do I want to feel about my writing this year?”

I want to feel excited, capable, and peaceful about my writing.

With all of the above in mind, here are my writing WIGS for 2014:

  1. Rewrite my novel.
  2. Submit a short story to Level Best books.
  3. Submit to a writing contest 3 times.
  4. Schedule and complete a writing retreat.
  5. Set writing goals every week—put in calendar.
  6. Submit to critique group twice a month
  7. Host a writing retreat.
  8. Do JaNoWriMo, setting a writing goal each day.
  9. Write 12 blog posts for FDNH blog.
  10. Start nonfiction book.

While these goals are very concrete, they are also a stretch for me. Looking at the list, I feel excited, capable, and peaceful, so I think I’m off to a good start.

What are your writing goals for 2014?

Diane MacKinnon, MD, Master Certified Life CoachDiane MacKinnon: is a writer, blogger, mother, stepmother, life coach, and family physician. I’m getting organized for the new year and I’m so enjoying being in planning mode! Happy New Year, everyone!

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Christmas is on Wednesday. Smack in the middle of the week. So, not a very productive week on the surface, right?

Many people scramble to keep up with work, holiday shopping, and plans to participate in family and other holiday events.

It can be stressful.

But if you plan for it, the holidays can also be a great time to be productive in your business. Honest.

I find the last two weeks of December to be my most productive of the year. If I’m organized at the start of the month, everything can be accomplished before Christmas.

December is the one month that I schedule the first 3 weeks in detail (instead of a week-by-week approach I take the rest of the year).

Seeing everything that needs to be done written out early on keeps the stress to a minimum.

Lists, tasks, goals, and the success journal are front-and-center to help, of course, but I also implement another visual tool.

I use a full-size monthly wall calendar for holiday-related tasks and use post-it flags for to identify the tasks. Holiday shopping, groceries, sending out Christmas cards, phone calls to family, attending events — all of these have colored flags and are stuck to the applicable day in December. 

Not the best pic, but example with 'flags'

Not the best pic, but example with ‘flags’

The green flags are tasks that can be easily moved (if need be); dark pinks (since I don’t have red) are the events that most likely won’t change; yellows are tasks I can do at home; and orange flags represent the miscellany that involve scheduling/pre-planning.

If an errand can’t be done on one day because of weather, it can easily be moved to another day. If I don’t get to a yellow task on one day, I move it to another.

Knowing I’ll have downtime during the last 2 weeks of the month is motivating. I don’t want any flags on my calendar after Dec 24.

This year, Dec 26-Jan 3 will be quiet workwise since deadlines fell on Dec 20th and most people won’t get back into the swing of things until the first full week of January.

I’ll be spending the ‘quiet’ days wrapping up year-end paperwork, clearing the desk, and getting ready for business to open on Jan 4th.

If you run your own writing (or any) business, you can’t stop working just because the holidays come along. But you can enjoy the holidays and get your work done, too. I takes a little proactive planning (that’s redundant, but makes my point), but it’s well worth the effort.

Next week, my post will be summarizing my 2013 year and giving you a glimpse into my 2014 plans. I’m quite excited about what’s coming up, since this year… oh, wait, that’s for next week!

Have you had experience planning out December in order to enjoy some ‘downtime’ at the end of the month?

I wish you a productive end of the year!

Lisa J. JacksonLisa J. Jackson is an independent writer and editor who enjoys working with businesses of all sizes. She loves writing about NH people, places, and activities. You can connect with her on FacebookTwitterGoogle+, and LinkedIn.

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It’s that time of year again! Time to look back and see how far I’ve come this year. Back in January, I posted my Wildly Improbable Goals for 2013 and encouraged you to do the same.

Now it’s time to do a little reflecting and celebrating!

I recently wrote about times when I use my goals (Wildly Improbable and otherwise) to berate myself and feel bad—that is not what this post is about. I choose to feel good about everything I’ve accomplished and to use the goals I haven’t achieved to help me think about ways I can make changes so I can achieve them in 2014.

So, here’s my update:

WIG: Become a published author in 2013.

  • Okay, this one didn’t happen. I did, however, make a lot of progress with my writing (see below) and this goal is one I’m going to keep for 2014.

WIG: Publish a magazine article in a magazine in 2013.

  • This one didn’t happen either. I did do a lot of research on magazines and find out which ones I’d like to submit to, so I’m well set up for success next year.

WIG: Become newsletter editor for Martha Beck Inc. in 2013.

  • I applied for the job and didn’t get it. I tried, that’s the important thing. I feel good about the whole process and plan to apply again when the opportunity presents itself.

WIG: Polish and pitch my novel in 2013.

  • I did do this, sort of. I worked on my novel and I did talk to an agent about it, but my novel has morphed and I’m not sure exactly what genre it fits into anymore—so my conversation with the agent was more a fact-finding mission than a pitch. It was still fun and exciting!

When I wrote my WIGS, I also wrote out first steps to reach my first WIG: Become a published author in 2013. Here’s how I did:

First Steps:

  1. Have something for critique every time my writing group meets (every other week.) I did submit to my critique group, but definitely not every other week. I’m proud of myself for sticking with it for the whole year. At one point, I went back to my novel (on the advice of my writer’s group) and looked at every scene in my novel and figured out the goals, motivation, and conflict for each—very instructive!
  2. Write in journal every day—prompts, free-writes, anything that fosters my creativity. I have kept up with my daily journal but can’t say I actually wrote every single day, although I did write most days. I have journaled a lot more this year than I did in 2012. I did prompts and free-writes, which I love, as well as my regular journal writing. I don’t think committing to do anything every day is going to work for me.
  3. Print out novel and line edit by March 1st. Did not do this as I realized I had “big picture” rewrites to do (which I made a good start on!)
  4. Commit to monthly accountability meeting with L. Did this and found it extremely helpful.

Lessons learned: It’s nice to have WIGS, but it’s also nice to have smaller goals. Also, I’d like to figure out a way to note my progress on totally abstract things like “Spend more time in the zone and less time feeling blocked and hopeless.”

I’m always going to be a person who makes lists and set goals, but I’ve learned over this past year that I need to check in with myself (physically, emotionally, spiritually) before I make my list for the day.

One of my favorite quotes is the following, which sums up current philosophy on goal-setting:

We vastly overestimate what we can accomplish in one day and we vastly underestimate what we can accomplish in five years.

–Peter Drucker

What happened with your WIGS this year?

Diane MacKinnon, MD, Master Certified Life CoachDiane MacKinnon, MD: is a writer, blogger, life coach, mother, stepmother, and family physician. I’m looking forward to a couple of weeks of family, fun, and festivities, and then I’ll be back to my desk, setting my goals for the new year and creating a calendar that includes all my favorite things (especially writing!) Happy Holidays!

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I’m amazed at how many times I hear people not only say they are afraid to try new things, but they actually avoid trying new things. I knew someone who wouldn’t eat any food he’d never eaten before.

We’re all born with a blank slate. Every thing has a first time (including what we like to eat). Why weren’t we afraid from the very start? Because we didn’t know any better.

When was the last time you did something for the first time?

Each writer has different strengths and interests and we come about them in various ways. We had to learn how to:

  • write
  • spell
  • read
  • craft sentences/paragraphs/stories
  • come up with ideas
  • outline
  • research
  • use a card catalog (dewey decimal) at the library
  • do online Internet searches
  • understand grammar
  • learn writing rules
  • and so on

We didn’t one day wake up as writers or have a writing business. Everything is always brand new to us — at first.

Deciding to be a writer is scary in itself, isn’t it? Pursuing writing as a career has it’s own anxiety, too. As time goes on, we develop a skill set and some of us find a niche (or two) that we enjoy. One constant in whatever type of writing we’re pursuing, is that we always need to be looking for new work.

And doesn’t that thought just scare some of us until we break out in a sweat?

Where does the fear come from? Why do we get afraid of a writing project that’s a bit over our heads?

I’ve been there many times, and expect to be there many more. Being a little afraid is how I know I’m continuing to learn, improve, and build upon my current writing skills.

If you have the basic writing skills for a project, you shouldn’t be afraid to use them as a foundation for new work. And if there’s a certain type of writing you are passionate about pursuing, look into formal training through a class or workshop to help you get started.

We all start with a clean/blank slate. It’s up to us, individually, to fill the slate with the skills and experiences we want. Being nervous is a good thing – it means we’re aware and open to possibilities. It means we desire to push ourselves further.

If you don’t feel a little scared, you aren’t stretching yourself.

It’s okay to be afraid of a new writing project or opportunity.

I encourage you to embrace the fear and try the project anyway! I bet more often than not you’ll be happy that you did.

Have you had projects you were you initially nervous about, accepted them anyway, and were positively blown away by the results? 

Lisa J. JacksonLisa J. Jackson is an independent writer and editor who enjoys working with businesses of all sizes. She loves writing about NH people, places, and activities. You can connect with her on FacebookTwitterGoogle+, and LinkedIn.

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You may know about the Law of Attraction. Maybe you’ve heard about how ‘thoughts become things.’ And maybe you’re familiar with the saying ‘change your thoughts and you change your world’ — (Norman Vincent Peale).

I’ve heard them all. I know that thinking positive thoughts is a lot better than thinking negative thoughts.

There are definitely times when it’s “easier said than done,” but I think I’m getting better at it.

Most days I wake up happy and look forward to being productive, and there’s not much negativity that can get me off track.

On the mornings that don’t start as I want (usually if I’m awakened unexpectedly), it’s more difficult for me to ‘get my happy face on.’ We’ve all been there, right?

When we feel good, we move closer to doing, being, and having the successes that we want. The reason why is straightforward: feeling good allows us (gives us the freedom) to focus on the things we want. And getting what we want gives us the inspiration to continue moving forward.

Do you know anyone who wants to give up the great feeling of accomplishment?

If your day isn’t starting off the ‘right way’ (and we each have our own definition of that), here are some ways to get into a positive mindset:

  • Think about something wonderful in your life (people, things, places)
  • Read through some entries in your gratitude journal (if you have one).
  • Shift through the collection of kudos and ‘great job’ notes (I keep mine in a box on index cards and pieces of paper)
  • Look at your wall of awards / certificates / photos of family and friends
  • Read some pages of your calendar / day planner and see how much you’ve accomplished in the past days or weeks
  • Get some fresh air
  • Exercise
  • Listen to some music
  • Look at pictures of cute animals on Facebook

Having a positive mindset has physiological effects and you can’t help but want to keep that feeling.

Just about to cross the finish line

Just about to cross the finish line

In the past 10 days I ran two 5Ks. My 12th and 13th timed races of the year. The race I did this past weekend gave me a personal record (PR) for the year. I’m still smiling over that success. One more race in 2013, and then I start running races again on Jan 1, 2014.

I’m getting addicted to the feeling I have when I cross the finish line — in both my business and personal lives. I’m ready to up my game and set more serious goals — for racing, and for my business.

I’m looking forward to 2014 — I’m keeping my 2013 accomplishments on the walls around me (the visuals work well for me), so if a day starts off not-so-great, I’ll be able to refocus and get on track quickly.

What gets you back in a positive frame of mind if something derails you during the day?

Lisa J. JacksonLisa J. Jackson is an independent writer and editor who enjoys working with businesses of all sizes. She loves writing about NH people, places, and activities. You can connect with her on FacebookTwitterGoogle+, and LinkedIn.

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The problem with goals, even though I love them, is I tend to see them as “have to’s” rather than “want to’s,” even when the goal comes from my deepest self.

When I didn’t succeed at my goal of winning NaNo last month, I had a really hard time with it. I had a good reason not to get my 50,000 words done (read my blog post about it here) but I still had to deal with that little voice in my head that told me my “reason” was just another word for “excuse.”

I think I’ve come by this way of thinking honestly, as a part of my medical training, but I don’t think it serves me any longer.

When I was a third year medical student, I was doing my pediatrics rotation at a big hospital. My team was rounding on our patients at a certain time and my intern (who was my supervisor) told me to get all the x-ray films for all the patients we would be seeing that day.

I went down to x-ray to sign out the films and was told that the x-ray machines were down and no films could be developed (This was before the days of digital images.) The technician I spoke to said she had no idea when x-rays would be available.

I arrived at rounds at the appointed time and my intern asked if I’d gotten the films. I explained the problem and that no x-ray films were available.

“So, you didn’t complete your task, did you?” he asked.

“No,” I answered, “I didn’t.”

No excuses were acceptable. I learned that lesson many times during medical school and I stopped making excuses, even when the excuses were things like “I have a fever of 103,” or “I just had a baby 10 days ago.”

So, when I didn’t complete my NaNo goal, I had to do a lot of self-coaching to feel okay with the fact that I didn’t achieve my goal—even though it was a conscious decision not to finish—one I made over and over as the end of November loomed. I could have pulled a couple of all-nighters on the last weekend of November but I chose not to—and then I beat myself up about it.

My friend Julie just decided to do NaNo in January. Why didn’t I think of that?

I was too busy thinking negative thoughts about my lack of achievement to come up with something as creative as changing the month I did NaNo in.

Negative thoughts = stressful thoughts = narrow focus = lack of creativity (among other things.)

Right now, the best way I know how to be creative is to continue to examine my thoughts and decide which ones are true and which ones are just unquestioned.

Once I clean up my thinking, I can get back to my real work, which is writing.

Are negative thoughts interfering with your writing? Can you let them go?

Diane MacKinnon, MD, Master Certified Life CoachDiane MacKinnon, MD: is a writer, blogger, life coach, family physician, mother, and stepmother. I didn’t succeed at my NaNo goal, but now that it’s occurred to me, I think I’ll try again in January! In the meantime, I’m still plugging away at my novel. And blogging, of course!

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